Controversy broke out this week in the Electronic Dance Music scene over whether or not major EDM dj's are buying Facebook Fans. A graphic showing multiple artists' Facebook fan pages with Mexico City as the "Most Popular City", including Skrillex, David Guetta and Excision, was interpreted as possible proof by Mixmag. This possibility was then spread around the web via EDM fans and web publications.
Excision got into the fray with a Facebook post attempting to debunk the possibility. Though convincing on a personal level, Excision failed in his task and the issue remains open.
Before I dig into this topic let me make my position clear: I don't believe these dj's are buying fake fans on Facebook, but that does not mean fake fans are not being bought on their behalf. If fans are being bought, it would most likely be someone who's marketing on their behalf either buying fake fans through one of many available services or outsourcing social media marketing to an individual or firm who then employs a service that provides fake fans.
Earlier this week Mixmag posted an unattributed story referring to a "user generated image posted online over the weekend" (shown at right), also without additional attribution.
This graphic is a composite of screengrabs taken from the Facebook fan pages of David Guetta, Excision, Steve Aoki, Skrillex, Deadmau5 and Avicii. They all list the "Most Popular City" as Mexico City. That is still the case early morning June 1st for all except deadmau5 whose current "Most Popular City" is Naples, Campania, Italy.
The highlighted "Most Popular City" for each act is seemingly presented as evidence that these artists are "buying fake fans". The Mixmag response is interesting because it includes the statement "even if this particular graphic is nonsense (which, let's face it, wouldn't be a first for the internet)." It also states that a "more in depth feature" is coming soon.
Given that they could have verified the graphic by checking the Facebook fan pages and probably did, it gives one a sense that Mixmag already knows more than they're letting on. It also raises the question of how they found the graphic and whether or not someone there created the graphic as part of a self-serving linkbaiting scheme.
Excision responded at length on his Facebook fan page in an attempt to debunk the claims now circulating widely through the EDM online community. He states that Mixmag got the "Most Popular City" info wrong because they and others interpreted it as "showing you the where the artist has received the most new likes on a given week."
Excision goes on to discuss the issue from various angles, including the fact that other artists are buying fake fans, and asks, "why would you buy fake profiles of people from Mexico when you can buy fake American fans with triple the value for the same price?"
It's an interesting defense but it doesn't actually hold up.
If you hover over the question mark beside "Most Popular City" you'll see FB's explanation:
"The city where most of the people talking about this page are from."
Facebook clarifies elsewhere that the one liner doesn't mean what normal humans would think:
"People Talking About This - the number of people who have created a story from your post. Stories include:
• Sharing, liking, or commenting on your post
• Answering a question
• Responding to an event"
However, that explanation leaves out a fuller range of actions that Facebook interprets as story creation. As widely noted and attributed to "A Facebook spokesperson", "liking a Page" is also considered part of the metric.
That means, yes, the "Most Popular City" can indicate new Facebook fans.
But there's not enough information available publicly via Facebook to say more than that. However, when buying Facebook fans, one typically gets a batch of profiles that are very similar and often from the same area.
Dan Tynan shares a specific example of what he's been finding of late that seems similar to the EDM situation. In the process he exposes the action of Hey Dude Skin Care who ultimately responded by saying that the "company fell victim to an outside social media agency...The methodology for obtaining followers was never shared with Hey Dude."
Taken as a whole, the above points are why I think it's most likely that some entity connecting these acts outsourced the process, knowingly or not, and ended up being exposed via Facebook.
If you're interested in researching this topic further, I would suggest seeing if there's a business relationship that connects all these acts and then seeing who's providing publicity. Then I would examine other acts promoted by that firm to see if similar patterns are appearing on their Facebook fan pages. Unfortunately that's a bit complex for this blogger at the present time. But if you come up with something, let me know.
Note: I think Excision's best move was the image (see above thumbnail) that he had "one of my guys" do in Photoshop of "all the hater sheep on their way to Failsville." For my part, I'm no hater but I used to work in hip hop web media so I generally assume the worst in cases like this.
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith blogs about business at Flux Research: Business Changes and about dance at All World Dance: News. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.